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The Kind of Mail I Get

April 1, 2011

I’ve come to the conclusion that high school age boys make up the majority of my fan base.

I’m not sure how these young men (none of whom I actually know personally, Officer) got hold of my book, or why they were even interested in reading it in the first place. I had written this book called “It’s Not PMS, It’s You”, which was a humorous look at relationships. It’s not like it’s about football or drugs or anything. You would think a book with the word “PMS” in the title would send them running in the other direction, wouldn’t you?

Even if they were interested in learning more about how women think, it was kind of a leap for the average reader to tell that it was about the vastly complex world of male-female relationships anyway because the book looked like a large bar of chocolate. From what I can tell, somewhere in the jacket design process the decision was made to pay attention only to the capitalized words in the title, and so a book about the things guys do in relationships to really piss women off garnered a lot of attention primarily because the first thing people thought when they picked up the book was, “Mmm…. chocolate.” Maybe the publishers knew what they were doing.

Anyway, I base the whole high school thing on some samples of the kind of mail I’ve been getting:

I’m not a Nigerian prince but I do need your help!


Dear Ms. Amlen,

I’m an 11th grader at Redacted Academy, a New Hampshire

prep school, and I’m a big fan. I work on our weekly newspaper, The
Daily Redacted, with my friend Calvin R. Edacted, who compiles our humor page. This email is really about a favor I’m asking you to do for Calvin. He’s
really a very sweet guy who’s dedicated to being funny and making
people smile, and if you could send a couple of words of encouragement
to him and maybe an autograph (I didn’t have time to actually send you
a SASE, but even just an email would be nice.) I know it would mean a
lot. He works hard on the page every week because he knows how much
happiness it brings to people, but he is rarely thanked, and rarely
told that his dream career in writing comedy is worth his time. I hope
there’s something you can do for him to change that. I’ve attached
some of his early work after my signature, if you would like to read


Andrew Redacted”

Very sweet. Far be it from me to crush the hopes and dreams of enterprising young humorists such as Andrew and his classmate Calvin, so I wrote them back:

“Dear Andrew, 

Thanks so much for writing.

My general feeling is that if someone goes to the trouble of telling me that they are not, in fact, a Nigerian prince, then they probably really are, in which case I clearly stand to make a whole boatload of money by writing back to you. Please tell your friend Calvin that it’s taking advantage of opportunities like this that has made me who I am today.

I think it’s great that you are so supportive of each other, and Calvin, if you’re reading this, hang in there, buddy. If you are into humor writing for the long haul and the pure enjoyment of it you won’t need external validation, or at least that’s what my therapist tells me. She charges by the hour and has a lot of very impressive plaques on her wall, so I’m pretty sure she knows what she’s talking about.

Seriously, It seems that you are both doing a great job, and if there are newspapers to write for when you get to college, by all means write for them as well. Many of the humor-writing jobs in film and television are fed by college papers.

Keep on making the jokes and the thanks will come. Trust me.

Best Regards,



Then there was this one:

“Hi Ms. Amlen,
My name is Robert Redacted (no relation to Andrew). I’m a teacher in Texas. One of my students is reading a portion of “It’s Not PMS, It’s You” for a prose reading contest that requires the author be born after 1960.
Could you e-mail me a note stating your birthdate. I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you.
Robert Redacted, R. E. Dacted Memorial H.S.”
Also very nice. But my first two thoughts upon reading this were (1) Lord help the poor child who is reading from my book for a prose-reading contest, and (2) Wait, they want me to publicly admit my age?
Well, anything I can do to help literacy programs in this country is my pleasure, believe me, Mr. Redacted. I was born in 1962, which would put me at a very solid 29.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. ===Dan permalink
    May 23, 2011 11:11 PM

    You’ll notice that Mr. R. Redacted did not assert his non-Nigerian non-Princehood. If you reveal your date of birth next they’ll be asking for your social security number, but the joke’s on them because there will be no social security by the time you’ll be ready to retire, 50 years from now. (This is not a generous estimate of your age, by the way, but a realistic assessment of the state of Social Security.)

  2. April 2, 2011 8:47 AM

    How unusual, Deb: I’m 29 as well! Great letters.

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